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Showing posts from November, 2012

Keeping a Child Interested in Practicing

Keeping a child interested in practicing their musical instrument is an extremely difficult task for a parent. The first thing to do is come to grips with the fact that every music student has practicing low points. It is part of the learning process. A month of not wanting to practice is not an indication in the level of interest in the instrument. To expect a music student to be enthusiastic about practicing every day is about as reasonable as expecting someone to look forward to the gym every day.

However, there are definitely way to smooth out the process. Practicing at the same time every day helps make the process a routine. Trouble usually arises when practicing is not part of the usual daily schedule. It needs to become a habit like brushing your teeth.

Giving a student some sense of control over the practice session also helps. With older students this is much easier. They are mature enough to handle solo practice sessions. With younger students, more creativity is req…

Free Time vs. Focused Time vs. Productive Time: They're NOT the same

I am a Suzuki violin teacher.  But I'm also a writer.  I've enjoyed writing since high school but I didn't really start publishing my work until late 2010.  Even then I only really considered writing to be a sort of hobby.  I wrote when I felt like it.  Which meant that sometimes I would have really productive months and sometimes weeks would slip by without a word written.

Now writing, just like playing the violin, is a craft.  It takes both time and effort to hone your skills.  As my writing projects/ideas started to pile up I realized that if I wanted to start seriously making a steady side income from writing, I was going to have to start approaching writing not as a hobby but as a business.

Which meant I had to start thinking about how I was using my time.  When I first started I wrote in my free time.   Free time is kind of a vague concept.  I think if we're honest with ourselves we actually have lots of free time but the only time it really registers with us is …

Staying In Control of Your Classroom

It is the worst nightmare of every teacher to be stuck in a classroom full of energetic children that seem to be set on not listening to a word you are saying. One of the most difficult lessons to learn as a teacher is to not cave into your first reaction to this type of scenario: yelling at them to be quiet. To make improvements, you must analyze why you lost control of your classroom. There could be any number of reasons, but the two most common are: the students have been sitting still for too long and/or the activity is too difficult for them.

Children need to move. There is nothing wrong with having to burn off some excess energy. As adults, we naturally lose some of that energy so it is easy to forget that is an extremely important part of a child’s day. Signs that the children are becoming “antsy” include hopping around in place, bothering the child next to them and frequent glancing out the window. When these signs appear, it is the teacher’s job to redirect t…

Review of O'Connor Violin Method Book 1

When I first heard about these O'Connor fiddle books I was actually pretty excited. I am very open to the idea of teaching kids pedagogically using American tunes and the fiddling world has been long overdue for something like this.  This is a genre of music that really needs to be systemized.  As in, there needs to be readily accessible books/tools for teachers to use with their beginning students.

So in that sense, this book does a credible job.  It nicely lays out fiddle tunes in a progressively more difficult order.  The CD accompanying the book is well put together.  Throughout the book there are also suggestions on little variations you could add here and there to each piece if you wanted to get experimental and try some improvisation.  I actually kind of wish this had been emphasized more since improvisation is such a large part of fiddling.

From a teaching perspective, the O'Connor method book does not teach basic violin technique quite as smoothly as the Suzuki books…

How DO Suzuki Students Learn Their Pieces?

There is nothing especially mysterious about the process of teaching a three, four or five year old how to play an instrument. I have experienced many instances where parents have inquired about music lessons for their young child and repeatedly asked during the conversation “so they’ll actually be able to play an instrument?” The straightforward answer to this question is another question: “do you think they can play?”

The Suzuki method breaks everything down to the simpler task. This is why sight reading is taught as a separate entity. It would be difficult for anyone of any age to attempt the complex task of playing an instrument while trying to figure out how to read music at the same time. Therefore, beginning students are taught their pieces by ear; listening and repeating is a skill most people have already mastered at a young age.

Most of what goes in to learning an instrument has nothing to do with the actual playing. One really good example would be the ability to sit …